Champs blow

Champs blow

Organisers forced to explore alternative May dates as COVID restrictions take hold

Observer writer

Friday, January 15, 2021

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The 2021 staging of the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) National Boys' and Girls' Athletics Championships (“Champs”) appears set to be pushed back from the suggested March date to the alternative date of May after yesterday's announcement by the Ministry of Health and Wellness (MOHW) that COVID-19 restrictions would be extended a further two weeks until the end of January.

The ministry announced in a press release that the restrictions under the Disaster Risk Management Act, that include national curfews and a restriction on the number of people who could be gathered in any one place to a maximum of 15, would be extended until Sunday, January 31.

The restrictions were originally scheduled to be relaxed on January 15, and as a result six track and field meets had been postponed, now with the extension another seven meets will be forced into postponment or cancellation, if dates for them cannot be found on the calendar.

Garth Gayle, president of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA), told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that with 13 meets, most of them to be used as qualifying and preparation for Champs, affected, there would not be sufficient time to prepare for Champs in late March.

Recently ISSA had announced, after consultations with the MOHW, that if all things were in place for the staging of the five-day track and field spectacle, two sets of dates had been identified, March 23 to 28, which were the original dates and the first week of May, if it was necessary to move the championships.

Yesterday, Gayle said, “The extension will affect Champs as the March dates will not be feasible,” but added it was not all gloom and doom.

“The technical committee had the foresight to put in an alternative date and we will see how it goes from here,” he said.

Gayle, who is a member of the technical committee, said they would be meetings — one with the competitions committee today and others with meet organisers — to try and reschedule the meets.

When contacted yesterday, ISSA President Keith Wellington said he had not spoken to his Champs planning committee and was not able to comment on the matter, but agreed with Gayle that the “backup dates were put in to compensate for any eventualities”.

He said the draft schedule that ISSA had circulated to the schools would still be used if the championships were held in May, “unless there were significant events taking place”.

Gayle said he understood the move taken by the Government and the MOHW to extend the measures.

“The Government has to look out for the best for the entire country, but we will be working closely with the ministries of Sports and Health and Wellness and hopefully we will get back on track soonest,” he noted.

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